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The National Drivers Licence, My Story (1)

Published by Leadership on Sun, 25 Sep 2016

On June 11, 2007 I assumed office as Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Commission amid controversy. After the formal event at the FRSC headquarters, I moved over to the Wuse Zone Two headquarters annexe to review a parade and address the staff. In the course of the address, I outlined a few key priorities including restoration of the integrity of the drivers licence.The restoration of the integrity of the licence was a cardinal project for me due to two personal experiences. First was my effort, as a resident of Virginia State USA, to acquire a drivers licence in 2004. My initial shock was the fact that I couldnt swap my Nigeria licence, like other countries, for the Virginia State licence. Reason' Nigeria is not one of the countries that is recognised for licence swap. I ate the humble pie and started a new drivers licence process which entailed a verification of my residency status and identity, eye test and computerbased written examination. I collected the free copy of the highway code and got an appointment for the written test. Advised by my classmate, I studied the code as if it was my degree examination. On the test day, I narrowly passed the written test and was issued a learners permit valid for 30 days after which I would undergo a driving test.To cut a long story, I failed the driving test, for failure to stop fully at a Stop Sign. My tester, a pleasant middle-aged woman, told me stop means stop not slow down. I retook the driving test after three days and passed. I nearly had a party for a getting a licence though I had been a driver with a Nigerian drivers licence for over 15 years. That process got me thinking, how did I get my drivers licence in Nigeria' I got it through a lady who helps us to get original drivers licence. I had never been tested orally or practically by anybody to verify that I can drive.My second experience was a few days after I got my learners permit. I got what I thought was a great deal to a Honda Prelude from a neighbour in Arlington, Virginia when it became obvious that I cant go to school and move my young family without a car. After I paid the agreed price and sought to take possession of my first car in America, the seller balked. He insisted we go together to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) to change ownership before I can drive the car. We drove to the DMV; he took out the plate numbers, handed it over to the staff who processed a new tag for me. Once the exchange was completed, which included my purchase of insurance, he handed over the keys to me and we parted ways.These two experiences followed me to FRSC. As I resumed work the day after the resumption ceremonies, I asked for the verification of my Nigeria drivers licence which was acquired through the aforementioned third party, lo and behold, my details were in the database. I was pleasantly surprised but confused. Confused about the mechanics of uploading data of a person who did not appear in person at a data capture centre and yet got uploaded to the central server. It was obvious the system was broken and that the decentralised capture and print was compromised.We started the process to review and reform the process by approaching the issuers of the drivers licence: State governments. I approached the Joint Tax Board (JTB), the organ through which the Uniform National Drivers Licence was managed. Here we hit on a crucial and important fact: FRSC does not issue or sell drivers licence. The commission manages the process for the states to create uniformity, avoid leakages and help law enforcement. This system was created in 1992 during the tenure of Dr Olu Agunloye as Corps Marshal.After we got the go ahead of the JTB, advertisement for consultants was placed in the newspapers. FRSC engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to carry out a review of the processes and information systems supporting the National Drivers Licence Scheme (NDLS) with a view to assisting the organisation to enhance these processes and systems. The project commenced in October 2008.The review identified several issues with the current operations of the NDLS. These cut across people, systems and processes. A report, which detailed the work done as well as their findings, was submitted in March 2009.One of the key recommendations of the review exercise was the need to select a new technology platform to support the NDLS. The envisioned solution should have support for: Multiple biometric identification, multiple access channels, standardisation in biometric information capture, Centralised card printing, and Specialised NDLS facilities.Selection of the envisioned identity management solution was deemed as a critical starting point in implementing the envisioned NDLS. Therefore, after conclusion of the review exercise, FRSC engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist it in the selection of a suitable Identity Management and Card Printing solutions.The selection process commenced with the definition of functional and technical capabilities which the envisioned system should possess in order to provide FRSC with the required support. The functional requirements were grouped under the following headings: Capture Data, Test Applicants, Re-Issue Licences, Update Data, Renew Licences, Suspend Licences, Revoke Licenses, Accredit Driving Schools, Verify Identity, Manage Offenders Register and Print Licenses. Looking at the functional requirements one can deduce that the new drivers licence had many functionalities that did not exist and was a complete overhaul.Following definition of functional and technical requirements, the project team researched the biometrics market to identify suitable product vendors. This research culminated in the identification of five vendors namely: L1 Identity Solutions, NEC, Sagem/ MORPHO, Cognitec, Cogent Systems.These vendors were contacted by e-mail to determine their interest in participating in a competitive bid for the required solution. NEC identified the lack of a presence in Nigeria, to support an implemented solution, as the reason for not participating in a competitive bid. L1 Identity Solutions (L1), Sagem/ MORPHO, Cogent Systems (Cogent) and Cognitec indicated willingness to participate in the competitive bid process.Requests for Proposal were sent to each of the vendors on 9 July 2009 with a stipulated submission date of 31 July 2009. L1 and Sagem requested for an extension due to the unavailability of their staff during the summer holidays. Based on these requests, FRSC extended the submission date to 30 September 2009.Cogent and Cognitec informed the project team of their decision to withdraw from the bid process prior to the submission date due to an inability to form required consortia to submit a proposal. Sagem neither submitted a proposal nor indicated an intention to withdraw from the bid process. On the submission date, only L1 submitted a proposal to FRSC. This submission was made through SW Global Limited (SWG).Proposal evaluation was divided into two parts namely Technical Evaluation and Financial Evaluation. As part of the technical evaluation, the team comprising of FRSC Board Chairman, Staff of the Presidency, representative of JTB and FRSC visited two reference sites for L1 in the United States. The sites were the Departments of Motor Vehicles for the states of Massachusetts and Maryland. In addition to the site visit, L1 demonstrated their solution to the project team and FRSC staff on 24 November 2009 at FRSCs head office in Abuja.To be continued
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